• Thursday, Oct 21: Young Adults Fellowship meeting at Jonathan Weng’s home (7:30 PM).
• Friday, Oct 22: Everglow Youth Fellowship – Ruth: Woman of Loyalty (7:30 PM Youth Room 160).
• Sunday, Oct 24:
– Youth Sunday School (10 AM Youth Room 160): Philippians study
– English Worship (11 AM Second Floor) Guest speaker, Rev. Dr. Russell Yee speaks on “As Rubbish” (Luke 18:9-14)
– No Agape Family Group meeting
Oct. 21, 2010
Dear Canaan EMers,
Going public with our faith can be scary, but more often than not, it’s fun. Last Saturday’s 30th Anniversary Bazaar was wonderful. Canaan was like the woman who found the lost coin, called out to all her friends and neighbors, and invited them over to celebrate with her (Luke 15:8-10)! Here are a few photos, thanks to Betty Hsu.
As our church comes close to a decision about the English Ministry Pastor, I’d like to offer some suggestions about how to relate to and work with your next pastor (whether it is me or someone else). Today, I want to talk about pastoral accountability. You’ve heard about the Roman Catholic clergy sexual abuse cases in the news. Indeed, abuse of spiritual authority is a significant problem, especially in churches that are not part of a denomination. Church splits and the destruction of important ministries have often resulted when pastors and church leaders are unwilling to be accountable for the use of spiritual authority.
When we read the bible, our first instinct is to look for the “Good Shepherd.” We want our leaders to emulate Jesus. But the bible also says a lot about “bad” shepherds. This is especially true of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who foresaw the destruction of the nation of Israel (and Judah). There is plenty of blame to go around, but these prophets attribute most of Israel’s downfall to bad shepherds (i.e., bad leaders). Here are some examples:
Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard, they have trampled down my portion, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. (Jeremiah 12:10)
My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains; from mountain to hill they have gone, they have forgotten their fold. (Jeremiah 50:6)
The word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel: prophesy, and say to them—to the shepherds: Thus says the Lord God: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with no one to search or seek for them. (Ezekiel 34:1-5)
Now, it is NOT appropriate to have a hyper-critical attitude towards pastors and other church leaders. I’ve seen churches where layleaders treat their pastors as nothing more than employees. Nevertheless, shepherds still must be accountable to God for their behavior and use of power. So how can we tell when a line has been crossed?
One clear indication is when a pastor or leader begins to expect personal loyalty from followers rather than directing them to Christ and his Church. For many leaders, this expectation sneaks up on them before they are even aware of it. So it’s not all their fault. Paul notes how easy it is for immature believers to follow individual leaders rather than Christ.
For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Cor 3:4-7)
I imagine that those who pledged loyalty to Paul and Apollos were blind to their own faults and hyper-critical of others. Paul makes it clear that neither he nor Apollos should receive the loyalty reserved for Christ. Despite this principle, today’s Christians still like to follow charismatic leaders blindly. How often have you heard Christians say that they join a church because they like a particular preacher who really “speaks” to them? How many Christians leave their church when their favorite pastor departs? How many broken relationships could have been avoided if loyalty to Christ and his church was paramount? How many church splits could have be prevented if pastors and church leaders had refused to fuel personal loyalty?
But it is very tempting for leaders to desire a loyal following. As a leader, I love to be affirmed and stroked. It is more fun to have devoted, unquestioning followers than outspoken critics. But these desires are rooted in selfishness and sin. During the past seven months, I’ve constantly reminded myself that I am accountable to God’s purpose and God’s church, not what my ego desires. And though I appreciate (and encourage) positive feedback, I remind myself each day that I’m called to be a shepherd of God’s flock, not to feed my ego.
Pastors and church leaders must always guard their egos. Now, a strong ego is necessary for leaders to thrive. It is a strength. But that same strength can become a fatal flaw when the ego is unsupervised. Therefore a leader’s most important spiritual discipline is to remember every day and every moment that he or she is called serve God and God’s people.
So your next pastor must pledge accountability to Christ and his Church first. That person must be willing to hear honest criticism, guard his/her ego, and refuse to allow his/her strongest supporters to become blind loyalists.
Let me know what you think about this. I’ll say more about pastoral leadership in the next few weeks and would love to hear from you!
Tim 曾 祥 雨
Interim English Pastor